That we avoided violence shows that demonstrators saw its irrationality and our officials were proactive, not reactive.
It says a lot of good about the citizens of Sarasota and Manatee counties — that the region avoided violence the past 10 days.
Kudos to the protesters and marchers for maintaining their emotions and using their rational minds to the point of resisting any urges to unleash destructive force against their neighbors.
To be sure, residents in both counties were on edge, worried what would happen here as we all witnessed the unnecessary and senseless murders, rioting and looting that engulfed many of America’s largest urban areas.
No one of a rational mind understands what good and productive come from destroying the property and businesses of law-abiding citizens. Thankfully, the demonstrators in Sarasota and Manatee had the decency and smarts to see that as well.
Likewise, Sarasota and Manatee law enforcement — through the able leadership of sheriffs Tom Knight and Charlie Wells of Sarasota and Manatee, respectively; the police chiefs Bernadette DiPino and Melanie Bevan of Sarasota and Bradenton, respectively; their top deputies; and entire forces — deserves congratulations and thanks for being proactive rather than reactive and managing this potentially volatile tinder box without incident.
We all know demonstrations — for or against — are an integral part to the functioning of our free democratic republic. But it’s probably also correct to say that far above that right is everyone’s desire to live peacefully and safely. Thankfully, that desire permeated this community.
You have to believe the vast majority of Americans instinctively and absolutely condemn the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the complicity of the other officers standing by.
But unfortunately, that one terrible act has become an all-encompassing symbol of what is portrayed as rampant, deep-rooted police brutality and racism against black people and that the entire country’s policing must be radically altered.
If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, it should be that sweeping one-size-fits-all conclusions are wrong. In the case of America’s police killing black people, numerous validated studies and research convincingly show America’s police officers are not killing black people indiscriminately or disproportionately.
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, an African American, cited last week a 2016 working paper by Harvard University economist Roland Fryer, also an African American, who concluded there was no evidence of bias in police shootings. He did find that black and Hispanic people were 50% more likely to receive nonlethal force from police. Riley also quoted a joint study by the University of Maryland and Michigan State University, which said:
“We didn’t find evidence for anti-black or anti-Hispanic disparity in police use of force across all shootings, and, if anything, found anti-white disparities when controlling for race-specific crime.”
Heather Mac Donald, an attorney and political commentator on race, crime and policing, has done exhaustive research debunking systemic police racism. (If you can, get her new book: “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe”).
Knowing this data, and as you read the Sarasota protesters’ signs and banners, you had to conclude and believe the vast majority of them are unaware that the narrative they declare is not the truth. But the power, influence and peer pressure of a group can be overwhelming and clouds rational thinking.
To be sure, we all are sick and grieving over what those four bad cops did in Minneapolis. Yes, demonstrate to express opposition. But what long has been puzzling to many observers is this: Why doesn’t the care for life go both ways?
Where were the marchers, NFL players taking knees and corporate donations for 77-year-old retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, an African American, whom a looter murdered while he was trying to protect his friends’ pawn shop, or for Dave Patrick Underwood, a black federal law enforcement officer in Oakland, Calif., who was fatally shot while trying to protect a federal courthouse? Much of America remains mystified why the killings of black people in Chicago go unabated without protest.
It’s difficult to make sense out of all of this and not to become emotionally charged or to dig in on one side or the other. What’s more, we all have seen how social media and the news media fuel the flames for both sides, widening the divisions between us. They’re not helping.
All of this is so disheartening to witness, and it tears at our souls. We love our country and are deeply pained by those who don’t. Non-native Americans who have become Americans often tell us the young people rejecting America have no idea, despite all our faults, how much better it is here than anywhere else.
In the introduction to “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” by Edmund Burke, the great 18th century British philosopher who influenced Jefferson, Adams, Madison and the Constitution, the late Russell Kirk, a noted American conservative, wrote this of Burke:
“He had learned from his shrewd observation of human nature that men are creatures of mingled good and evil and that evil is kept from crushing good only by the influence of education, family life, self-discipline, religious instruction, custom and habit, and those grand old institutions for human improvement, the Christian church and the just civil government.”
Those are the foundational bricks that must be cemented in each generation to avoid social strife.
But it’s even simpler than that. All of us, protesters included, should be reminded: In the Book of Leviticus, God told Moses to tell the Israelites the rules of the road as they left Egypt for Israel: “Take no revenge, and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Fourteen hundred years later, when a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said: Love God above all things. Then he added, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The U.S. Marines live by another code that always applies: Do the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons.